The Peace Process After the Israeli Election

(Foreign Affairs) Shlomo Avineri - In the late 2000s, under Ehud Olmert, Israel negotiated with the Palestinian Authority for more than two years. But as soon as negotiators moved from their ritualistic opening positions to the core issues of the conflict - borders, the fate of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee problem, and Israel's security concerns - it became clear that the gaps between the most moderate Israeli positions and the most moderate Palestinian positions were too wide to be easily bridged. That has not changed. Hamas' continued control of Gaza means that even an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would not mean an end to the conflict. The current turmoil in the Arab world bodes ill for the peace process, as an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and a Syria embroiled in a bloody civil war do not encourage even moderate Israelis to take risks with the Palestinians. This means that Israel's next government should take a fresh look at what is feasible, with an eye toward the lessons from similar conflicts such as those in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kashmir. None of these conflicts has been fully settled, but they have been gradually tempered. In each case, a complex set of partial agreements, conflict-management measures, unilateral decisions, and confidence-building strategies has generally kept bloodshed at bay. Such an approach would mean moving ahead slowly, step by step, which would make it easier for both sides to sell such piecemeal progress to their constituencies, since they would not have to cross any of their fundamental and ideological redlines. More modest aims are the only realistic way to push Israeli-Palestinian relations away from the dangers of confrontation and toward some modicum of reconciliation. Everything else has already failed. The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

2013-01-30 00:00:00

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